Making the Motivational Interview Spirit a Habit in Integrated Care Settings

By Corinne Rogers, Project Manager

To say that integrated care teams are short on bandwidth is an understatement. Doctors, nurses, counselors, physician extenders, pharmacists, patient navigators and all members of the healthcare continuum work hard to help as many patients as they can yet feel like they never have adequate time. Moreover, providers are in the tricky position to treat immediate symptoms while offering preventative education. Over time, some patients may present certain behaviors that lead them to regularly return to be seen by an often overworked and understaffed care team for the same symptoms, stuck in a revolving door of illness and short-term treatment, no matter what they are told or warned. Motivational Interviewing (MI) is one strategy recommended to stop this revolving door by bridging communication gaps and facilitating behavior change that can be implemented at all levels of healthcare organizations.  

MI in a Nutshell 

Evolving out of addiction treatment, MI is a communication guide that has been shown to be beneficial across different health care professions, driving patient centered treatment decisions, improving health outcomes, and decreasing readmissions. Though called “interviewing,” MI is really a systematic conversation style that aims to elicit and identify change talk by evoking feelings, thoughts, and attitudes via the OARS (Open ended questions, Affirmations, Reflections, and Summaries) skills to craft questions and responses. Confidence and importance rulers are helpful framing devices when utilizing MI to measure ambivalence and facilitate change in a more targeted way. Asking questions should only comprise about ¼ of the overall conversation. MI is most effectively used when patients are already in a state of ambivalence about changing behaviors. Using the OARS principles to direct conversation during appointments can elucidate patients’ beliefs, values, and habits to discover barriers and motivations to change, which is crucial to informing an effective treatment plan. 

The MI Spirit 

One of the more compelling aspects of MI is its emphasis on sincerely respecting human autonomy with compassion, understanding that patients are the experts on themselves even when they need help. This mindset is known as the MI Spirit and is foundational to its efficacy. Asking open ended questions allows the care team to hear patients’ reasons to sustain behavior, reasons to change, and healthcare goals in their own words according to their own values and beliefs. Affirming can reinforce common ground between patients and caregivers in a way that helps make the patient feel heard and respected. Reflections allow patients to hear their words spoken back to them with an opportunity to make corrections and clarifications. Patient stories can be complex, so summaries allow caregivers to highlight patients’ values, competencies, reasons for change and barriers that can be addressed in a treatment plan, like flowers in a garden full of weeds. 

This communication style may feel like opening Pandora’s box, but the OARS tools can help caregivers respectfully keep the conversation on track while targeting patient concerns. The MI Spirit challenges providers to explain when recommendations are important (after asking permission) using call backs from past conversations, linking the patients’ stated desires and values to the treatment decision at hand. The style of MI also allows caregivers to roll with resistance while communicating with combative, defensive, or otherwise difficult patients. Practicing the MI Spirit and OARS skills can be useful at all levels of the care team. Those who are trained in MI can listen for change talk and discern when patients may be entering a state of ambivalence and respond appropriately. OARS skills may also help with de-escalation, burn out prevention, and improved patient experience.   

Slow is Fast and Fast is Slow 

In healthcare, time is of the essence. Some critiques of MI state that providers do not have the time for such a conversation when addressing serious issues. However, advice and education given by providers are filtered through patients’ personal perceptions and preconceived notions, often lowering the likelihood that patients will share their provider’s urgency. MI skills work with those perceptions when discussing a patient’s health, emphasizing patient centered and trauma informed care. OARS skills work to deliver care and education so that patients may be more receptive to information, reduce readmission, and improve overall timeliness at all branches of the healthcare continuum. When incorporated into a treatment plan, MI can strategically acknowledge barriers faced by revolving door patients to promote treatment adherence. Integrating MI core skills and the MI Spirit of listening for change talk in the patients’ own language can help reinforce that their barriers and values are understood by their caregivers, so they feel more involved in their treatment rather than feeling talked at (or worse, talked down to). With MI, more may get done in a 10-minute conversation than over the course of several doctor visits.  

Implementing the MI Spirit in an integrated healthcare setting can begin with using the OARS principles, i.e., focusing on mirroring the patient’s words and values when constructing questions and responses, emphasizing that patients learn better from their care team when caregivers meet them where they are. Combined with other treatment approaches, MI has been shown to be helpful with no adverse consequences. At most, MI helps patients change behaviors that negatively impact their health and quality of life. At least, it is a helpful communication guide that naturally reinforces patient centered care. MI is helpful to learn how to communicate. Effective communication makes care timelier, and timely care makes the difference between change and the revolving door. 

  • motivational interviewing
  • integrated healthcare
  • behavioral health
  • primary care
  • care management
  • compassionate healthcare
Linda CardwellMaking the Motivational Interview Spirit a Habit in Integrated Care Settings

Naloxone Saves Lives

You have the opportunity to save lives in your community.

The makers of Narcan are shipping out hundreds of thousands of doses of naloxone across the United States. It will be available over the counter in pharmacies without the need for a prescription. This update in policy has the possibility of vastly changing the way we respond to opioid overdoses in our country. While there is opposition to Narcan being available without a prescription, many of those reasons are rooted in unhelpful and unfair stigma of those suffering from Opioid Use Disorder. The data overwhelmingly tells us that naloxone saves lives. So, let’s break down some of the facts:  

  • Naloxone can reverse an overdose from opioids, including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid medications.  
  • There are two forms of naloxone that anyone can use even if they haven’t been trained: a nasal spray and an injectable.  
  • Naloxone won’t harm someone if they don’t have opioids in their system. But if they are overdosing from opioids, it can restore normal breathing within 3 minutes. 
  • Those who administer naloxone to someone who appears to be suffering from an opioid overdose are protected under Idaho’s Good Samaritan Law.
  • Carrying naloxone is no different than carrying an EpiPen for someone with allergies. It adds an extra layer of protection for those at risk of an overdose. 
  • You can find naloxone across the state of Idaho by using this online tool.

Here at Cornerstone Whole Health Care Organization, we’re all about solutions that are sustainable and make real impacts. We work with communities and organizations to prevent, treat, and manage opioid use disorders (OUDs). We’re working to break down stigma around OUD, recovery, and intervention by educating and providing information and resources that have been vetted and verified by our team of clinicians, public health administrators, and healthcare professionals.

We’ve compiled a list of resources to help you learn more about naloxone and how greater accessibility will impact our community.

Wanting to share this information more widely? We’ve created a Naloxone Resource Media Kit with printable assets such as takeaway cards, rack cards, flyers, and posters. Available to all, for free, to use, print, and distribute. The wider availability of naloxone is only one part of the puzzle that is OUD. Our resources are designed to educate and empower everyone to support recovery efforts. 

Our takeaway cards are designed to be used in conjunction with naloxone to provide essential information such as signs of opioid overdose, and what to do and how to administer naloxone in case of an overdose.  

We’re excited to be collaborating with organizations and institutions making an impact around opioid use disorder. If you’re interested in learning more, have questions, or are seeking resources, you’ve come to the right place. We’re so happy you’re here and ready to make a positive impact on your community.

  • opioid use disorder
  • pharmacy
  • naloxone
  • narcan
  • substance use disorder
  • recovery
  • healthcare
Linda CardwellNaloxone Saves Lives

Pacing with Our Patients: Recovery & Opioid Use Disorder

Pacing with Our Patients: Recovery & Opioid Use Disorder

By Sabrina Sherwood, Pharmacy Consultant

I recently ran my first half marathon and have my first full marathon in one month. I wouldn’t call myself a “runner”, but I find myself like a moth drawn to flame of the running community. The grit, the perseverance, the preparation. After finishing a race, I like to sit at the finish line.

It’s easy to get caught up in cheering for the first-place finisher but I find the real awe in seeing how many people cross the finish line with grimacing eyes, subpar posture, and sweat stains that will take weeks to resolve.

These are the runners who run not to get first place, but to accomplish their goal of finishing – and the running community has stepped up to help the majority. How? Race pacers.  A race pacer is a runner that keeps a consistent pace throughout a run. These are usual veteran runners – experts who can easily maintain a run speed for a long duration of time. Often, large groups of runners will find their pacer at the start line and run alongside them for the entirety of the race to ensure they achieve the goal time they seek.

Healthcare teams are in a strategic position to pace with patients in many ways – but particularly as it relates to opioid use. Over 27 million people were reported to be suffering from opioid use disorder in 2016. Of those suffering, few have the resources to seek help, and even less are receiving treatment. Providers (including partners such as behavioral health specialists and pharmacists) are highly skilled members of the healthcare team. Pacers are experts of running, and similarly, our healthcare partners are experts in therapy management.   

Like a marathon, our patients with opioid use disorder are not looking to secure the single first-place title of “best sober person to exist”. They just want to cross the finish line. There are a few ways that we can pace with them:   


Helping our patients develop and adhere to a plan that will maximize potential to reach their goals. Patient with opioid use disorder may have competing psychosocial and health related needs that should be factored in before setting up a “training” plan. Let’s help them see the path of least resistance to their finish line.  

Bring them into the Network   

We do better together. Studies show that running persistence improves in those who have a running social network. Pacers bring encouragement and motivation to runners when they’re tempted to quit. Similarly we can support our patients by providing them with their own healthcare partner “pacer” and other resources.

Match the Cadence    

Let’s pace with our patients to meet them where they are at. As a provider, it is easy to sprint to the finish line and waiting for our patient to catch up. We are tempted to tell the patients exactly what needs to be done for them to improve their health and expect them to adhere to our plan. Our patients aren’t robots – they need water breaks, and they need time to tie their shoes occasionally. Let’s pace by continually assessing their progression and helping them move closer to their goal.   

  • pharmacy
  • opioids
  • opioid use disorder
  • recovery
  • opioid epidemic
  • substance use disorder
  • healthcare
Linda CardwellPacing with Our Patients: Recovery & Opioid Use Disorder
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